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Make a big change in your career and life

In the past few weeks, I offered up steps to take in preparation for a life transition and what you can do to create a shift without making the immediate big change.

Now I am sharing a process that sets you up to make a big life or career transition.

There are two ways to use these tools:

  1. Try out these steps when you know you are ready to implement a change in your life and you feel, “this is it! Now is the time!”
  2. Use any of these tools to move you closer to the change you want in your life or career sometime in the future. Hint – these processes work at ANY TIME to give you more clarity and alignment in your life!


If this moment in our history has awakened something inside you, igniting your creativity and a new direction, and you are ready for a change – use these tools to begin decisive action.

If this time of challenge has provided you or your family with clarity that what is currently occurring cannot continue in the same way – use these tools to walk toward a more sustainable future.

And if you are currently working hard to manage each moment in front of you, using your energy to tend to your well-being and your family’s well-being, and cannot possibly think of or talk about a change right now – you are not alone!

You can try only one of the first steps to gently lay the groundwork for the possibilities of what you want to come in a year or two. (Or come back to this process when you are ready.)

Here is the guide that includes these tools, plus the previous processes offered for building towards a transition in your life.

May you be well as you move toward change or stead yourself right where you are.

Rheanna SmithMake a big change in your career and life
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Shift your current situation while staying put.

Something needs to change. You can feel it in your muscles or hear it from a quiet, determined voice inside. Perhaps it is a small change whispering to do it differently. Maybe you know something big needs to shift and are feeling antsy and excited.

But what if you cannot make the change right now? Or the way forward isn’t clear?

Focus on what is in front of you and in your control. You can always make subtle changes in your environment and in your own response.
Watch this video for actions you can take now to shift your current situation before you make a bigger change.


You do not have to leap all at once. Little shifts in your current environment can lead to new openings and perspectives. 

(Missed part one, check it out here – 4 steps to begin a transition.)

Need to see this all in writing? Download the accompanying guide!

Getting ready for a transition and not wanting to do it alone? 

In a leadership position striving for positive community change and in support of justice for black and brown people?

I am starting a special edition Clear Harbor cohort specifically focused on leaders who are contemplating a career or life transition. There are only 3 spots left!

Let’s talk!  Plus more info.

Rheanna SmithShift your current situation while staying put.
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4 doable steps to move toward a big (or small) transition in your work and life

Why, you may ask, am I offering up thoughts on making a big transition in a pandemic and during economic instability?

Many clients and friends are thinking about making large (and small) life transitions.

Multiple times a week I talk with someone about changing a career or finding a new way to do things.

The pandemic, the fight for justice for black and brown people, the economic uncertainty is causing many people to get clear on how they want to show up in the world and where they want to put their efforts.

And some of us are in the thick of the biggest challenges of our lives. There is little time to think of the next hour. If you are there, this first video could still offer a place to carve a little breathing room for what happens in a few years.

Check out these 4 doable steps to move toward a big (or small) transition in your work and life.

I’ve created this guide with all 4 steps as a resource for you.

Getting ready for a transition and not wanting to do it alone?

In a leadership position striving for positive community change and in support of justice for black and brown people?

I am starting 2 new Clear Harbor cohorts this February. One is specifically focused on leaders who are contemplating a career transition. 

Let’s chat – more info here and jump on my calendar to talk more.

Rheanna Smith4 doable steps to move toward a big (or small) transition in your work and life
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Simple ways to connect with each other, even virtually

Connections to each other are critical right now. All of us are experiencing a pandemic, along with many accompanying worries and struggles. 

We need each other.

And we can’t see each other… in person or up close. (And some of us are seeing a few people a LOT, up real close… all the time!)

I’ll be real, I fit less into a day than I used to. I am moving slow and I engage less. 

It makes sense that this is where I am at in this stage of a pandemic.

Yet it is a tricky place – less capacity and more need for humans and connection.

If you are like me, you need some new ways or simple reminders of how we can still connect with each other.

Here are a few from me + more ideas from awesome women in a business group I am a part of. (And looking for ways to be alone… I’ve got ideas for that too!)

Ways to connect with family & friends you live with:

  • Play cards, a Board game, do a craft or a puzzle… non-screen activities without high stakes
  • Set aside coffee dates or date nights and turn off the screens & any household tasks or to-do lists
  • Slow down a bit when you are doing things for those you live with – while cooking or making a pot of coffee, think about who you are doing it for, and the care you are offering them
  • Build a short, doable family ritual in the morning – a song you always listen to at the beginning of the day or a brief walk you take together

Connect with friends & family you aren’t seeing in person:

  • Set up longer video calls over dinner or over a morning with a cup of coffee in hand (Zoom, WhatsApp, Houseparty)
  • Send real snail mail – perhaps pictures you have doodled during a zoom call, look at these blank postcards my son & I are decorating. Have a few cards already stamped and ready to send
  • Send short voice texts with text messages or WhatsApp (quicker than texting and fun to receive)
  • Start a picture sending project via text with a friend or group (think of it as the original Instagram, right now I send a real picture of the chaos of our messy house to two friends every few days)
  • Create new groups in text to stay in touch with & give them fabulous labels
  • Play games long distance with friends & family (Jack Box, Psych! etc.)

Connect with your team & co-workers:

You may be with your co-workers or team all the time on Zoom, and some of you are in person in stressful high stakes situations with your co-workers. However, neither of these scenarios guarantee real connection. Take a minute when you can to connect in small ways outside of the immediate work and it will make the work less stressful.

  • Have a co-working day with folks on Zoom, hang out and get work done
  • Add a few enjoyable activities to video meetings like share & tell or playing “highlights” or check-in question (only takes a few minutes and slows down the nonstop work meeting vibe)
  • Set up opportunities for folks to discuss and work in small groups and pairs while on video calls (we can forget that smaller groups even virtually create deeper connection) 
  • Offer office hours on zoom for folks to drop in & ask any questions they have
  • Offer coffee hour on zoom for folks to drop in and connect or other optional group gatherings like games or a poetry writing session
  • Drop off small care packages at your team’s door
  • Check out these helpful reminder phrases to build connection on Zoom work calls
  • In-person (and virtual) – find one small appreciation and offer it to folks on your team, make it a practice to seek out one appreciation per day for a different co-worker

Connect with yourself!

It is quite possible you need time alone and a reminder that it is totally a-okay to burrow in when needed. It is OKAY!

  • Take a walk in the middle of a workday
  • Plug into your earbuds to do the dishes or household tasks and give the fam a heads up that you are checking out for a minute
  • Set aside 4 minutes a day to breathe in and out, use a timer and hide as needed (bathrooms & closets work great)
  • Slow down and make simple things you do already more of a ritual – the coffee making, the egg frying, the teeth brushing
  • Turn off the screens for a few minutes a day

It is OKAY to be less in touch & need to be alone. If you can, let the folks around you or in your community know what you need – you could offer a simple – “I know I have been out of touch, I care about you & just doing my best right now to keep my head above water.” Or to your in-house humans, “I love you and I need to grab some alone time to recharge.”

Feeling alone in your work or community? 

Reach out, send a text, and let someone know you need to talk.

May you find moments of connection with the people in your life and may you find moments of rest and quiet.

What else simple ways are you building connection with others?

Rheanna SmithSimple ways to connect with each other, even virtually
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How to stay open when you are ready to shut the conversation down

My throat tightens and my neck and shoulders pull in toward my back.
She says to me again, “I am wondering if we can talk more about what just happened?”

Everything quickens, my mind jumps, and I think, “What did I do? What is wrong?”

I begin to feel nervous and a bit ashamed.
I do not like feeling ashamed.
And I know for me nervous often leads to anxious.
I do not like anxious… I want this feeling to end quickly, now.
 
I blurt out “oh I know, I know… I didn’t mean to” before she has even finished her second sentence.
Whew that took care of that – now we can move on!
 
Or another time… my heartbeat quickens, my face flushes hot.
This person is telling me their opinion and whoa are they so wrong!
“Oh no you don’t,” I think… “you have no idea… you do not understand the reality of the situation in the least.”
 
I jump in and interject my opinion, explaining the correct way, of course!
 
And they fly back with an even hotter remark about the way we see it. Game on!
Or they clench their jaw and stop talking. And I have won.
 
These could be hypothetical examples of moments when we lose our cool, are about to receive tough feedback, or hear a viewpoint that is completely different than ours.
 
However, they are not hypothetical for me – both instances happened in the last four weeks.

You may relate.
 
My quick response to protect myself from feeling anything does not help anything change nor does it lead to better relationships.
I am working at not going into these states of behavior immediately.
I try to slow down and stay open.
 
When I can stay open, non-defensive and listen, I can: 

  • deepen my connection with colleagues,
  • develop the muscles to stay in moments that are uncomfortable,
  • learn that I can become a more aware & empathetic version of myself.

Here are the steps I take in the middle of a challenging conversation to stay open.

(Oh, did you miss part 1? Check out this video about why we shut conversations down.

I made a downloadable guide just for you (and me) – with the steps I use to stay non-defensive when the conversation gets sticky.
 
A few of my favorite resources are in the guide too!

May we all deepen our ability to engage in rich, fruitful, world changing conversations with each other.

Rheanna SmithHow to stay open when you are ready to shut the conversation down
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Why we shut down when the conversation gets difficult & what to do about it

There is one skill I am using more than any other in this time of Covid, US elections, & racial justice movement building, and no it is not bread baking (although Elino and I are making a scrumptious focaccia these days). 

The skill I continue to need is “how to stay open & non-defensive during a difficult conversation.” I need this skill to maintain relationships with those I love, and to work toward change through long Zoom calls.

Staying open and non-defensive is not always easy for me. 

I continue to learn, practice, fail, & try again. 

I keep trying to change how I show up because I believe if I can be open and non-defensive, I will hear more, learn more, and be a part of bridging the divides in understanding that exist in our world & nation (instead of creating more of them).

I believe this is one of the most important skills for being in loving relationships, building a high-functioning, honest team, and moving toward racial, climate, & economic justice.

I am excited to share what I do and the resources I use to deepen this skill!

Start here with a video about why we usually shut down when the conversation starts to feel hard. And what you can do before you are in a tricky conversation so you have the ability to stay open when it gets heated.

Next week be on the lookout for part 2 with tips for how to stay non-defensive while you are in the middle of an important conversation, plus amazing resources I love, and a cheat sheet!

Rheanna SmithWhy we shut down when the conversation gets difficult & what to do about it
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5 Steps for Grounding During Instability

I’ve found myself in many client conversations these last months about the challenge of responding to change on multiple levels: institutional, global, national, local, and personal. So, a few weeks ago, I prepared a video for you called “5 Steps for Grounding During Instability”, in part, to deal with the profound ways in which the upcoming election has us all stirred up. 

In different ways and levels of severity, I find this feeling of instability & volatility everywhere I go; it feels like it’s coming right at us. I do not know anyone who is not feeling shaky, either personally or professionally. I shot this video to offer you a process for dealing with the constant change. 

Then something happened that led me to use & review every single one of these 5 steps… and it wasn’t the national news.

We had a COVID exposure in our family. It demanded a rush of change and wave of response. We had to employ a greater level of quarantine than we’d experienced before, underwent multiple tests and that anxious waiting period for results. I held hushed late-night conversations with my husband & took part in tough friend and family discussions. Don’t forget the worry. There was lots of worry. 

We are okay. This time around no one in our immediate circle got COVID. The experience revealed a glimpse of the tremendous amount of stress people deal with as they navigate a positive COVID case personally or in their family. And that instability I wrote about? It was already on my doorstep weeks before the election… which I am also preparing for.

I used all five steps for grounding in these last weeks of uncertainty. They helped me and my family ride the wave of changes & stress together. I had the opportunity to practice these steps before the moment when everything was upended. I was in the middle of the hard moment with a plan, knowing what my family and community needed with a full heart.

I hope you find these steps as helpful as I did. Use them today and prepare for tomorrow.

A guide for those who want to follow the steps in writing.
 
May you, your community, and those at your workplace, be well,
Annie

Rheanna Smith5 Steps for Grounding During Instability
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Making a tiny shift

Well here in Seattle, we are over 60 days in quarantine. My days are a mix of cleaning dishes, helping with a tiny “preschool” of 3, supporting clients as they make tough decisions, reheating my coffee for the third time, and more dishes.

I know that we are all navigating new realities and changes. I am also very aware that we are not all having the same experience. This pandemic is impacting different people and different communities in painfully different ways. It is highlighting the deep inequities that already existed. Those who are asked to work even harder with less protection are often folks of color and women. Those who in more danger of not being supported if they catch the virus are also people of color. These stark differences are causing us to consider on our own experiences in connection to each other’s experiences.

I am noticing, regardless of our different experiences, most of us are in a place of reflection. If you have a lot of time on your hands you may be reflecting… well a little too much. And if you find yourself with less time, and even more to juggle than before the quarantine, you might find the reflection is in sneaking right before bed or while you wash all those dishes.

Go towards that reflection gently, don’t ignore it. 

What is that voice asking you to pay attention to?

What are you noticing… about you, your relationships, your work, our communities?

Is there a shift calling out to you? Something you want to change?
(Maybe it is not as grand as the pivot everyone is talking about.)

If you give this ask for reflection a few moments of your time you can begin to make positive changes in your own life, in your community. (Examples of people making positive changes in my own community.)

For more on my own reflection & a simple process for paying attention to the call for a shift, watch my short video. Want to go even further for a step by step reflection process below.

The first step toward a shift or change is to pay attention.

Step by step: How to make a shift in your life

If you have a little more time or capacity, here is a way to reflect on a change you want to make, without simmering in it (which increases overwhelm).

What do you want?
First, ask your self – what is the shift you are noticing, or wanting, or needing to occur? (Again, this can be internal, or in relationship to others.)

Write it down.
On a sticky note. On a piece of paper.
Whew you wrote it down! It just got real.

Now let it be for a while. Put it up somewhere you will see it.

Reflect on your role & capacity
Come back and reflect by journaling or thinking about these questions:
– What can you control in the thing you want to have change? 
– What do you have capacity for taking on right now?
– Where do you already see the shift happening? How can you increase what is working?

Start small and with you
Find the smallest, simplest step that you can take, which is in your own control, to begin the shift.
Even if you are hoping for a big change in your workplace or in your community. You can find your role within the change and start there.

Gather resources
Start paying attention to the conversations & resources that begin to come your direction in support of this change. Read them. Listen.

Talk it out
Find someone you trust who will be kind to you while you reflect on what you want to change. Pick someone who will help you see other perspectives. Ask them for support, further conversations, & accountability.

What is working
Often our desire for change can come from what is wrong and not working. Hold on to the reminders of what is good and worthy of celebration – in yourself, your life, your relationship, your work, your community, & your country.

Listen to other perspectives.
Now that you have begun your own work. Continue to reflect on what may be occurring for others in the change you want to see.
– What could be their perspective, experience, & feelings?
Listen to those around you involved in what you want to see change.
See what changes in you when you open to their viewpoint.

Repeat each step, go further toward the shift you want to make.
Watch ripples in your life, your relationships, your work and your community!

Share with others – here, in a phone call or on social media… what positive shift are you making and how?

admin@annievonessenwebsite2015Making a tiny shift
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The return from silence

I am back.

Well, that’s a bit of an exaggeration. I have been “back” at work since Elino (our little one) was about 4 months old. He is now almost 2 years old! But there’s a tension between our real life and our online life. In my online life, I’ve been quiet & internal, posting a picture every few months. A little picture of a baby hand reaching out to touch a tree on Instagram. A quick photo as a token of the changing seasons on Facebook. A close up of a very green salad made by a dear friend.

In my real life, over the last year and a half, I have been a full-time momma, a full-time business owner/consultant, and a full-time partner in life and work with Roberto.

I’ve been quiet for a few reasons.

One, I had a child. For a quite a while I walked through the world in a deep state of awe. That kind of sublime feeling is not easy to put to words.

But also… Donald Trump became our President.

Both powerful events are intertwined in my psyche. I brought a little being into the world who was so small and helpless. Here is a man who models the worst of what our country has to offer. He is a directly and indirectly responsible for crying babies being taken from parents, normalizing climate lies, violence & sexual assault, threatening the sanctity of free speech. He embraces criminals, dictators and corruption. He pits our country against itself. He is a manifestation of everything this country believes itself not to be but actually is.

The intersection of these two events caused me to pull in and regroup. I was experiencing beloved human nature born into the world and I was hearing people in our country call out for policies and practices that denied humanity. Now, if you feel differently, please email me. I would love to begin a thoughtful dialogue about it. Let me extend an offer of listening as best as I can.

So, that’s why I‘ve sometimes seemed quiet.

I wondered “What do I have to say in this time”? It’s question many of us ask, especially those of us living in positions of privilege. And yet for us to come together in this time of division, we need to be talking. Talking and listening. Listening a lot.

Yet soon after these events I had an amazing opportunity to work with The Food Empowerment Education Sustainability Team, FEEST on their new strategic plan to grow & deepen the movement for just food systems. We had lively meetings while Lino slept (and cried) in my lap. I facilitated meetings with Roberto – my husband, a FEEST founder and a phenomenal facilitator. I listened. The lines of my life blurred – personal and work and political could no longer stay in separate columns.

(To be inspired and amazed by what youth-led, creative, love centered, food-filled social change looks like CHECK OUT FEEST.)

I worked with Verity Credit Union as they explored the true meaning of community in their mission while vowing to be a financial institution that puts people and community first. This work changed my understanding of what institutions can be when they live through the right intentions. Their work serves as an example that a large system can imagine another way to be.

I facilitated with multiple organizations that are working to become more equitable in their work and missions & unpacking the ways they perpetuate institutional racism. I continued to support groups of people that gather together to figure out how to make changes in large structures, like our foster care system.

Maybe you have witnessed people working to make fundamental changes in how we are in community with each other during this time of divisions and hate?

Maybe you have also quieted your heart and begun to look more directly at who we are as human beings…

When I look closely at humanity right now I see the ugly, the inhumane ways we pull back to protect “our own”. I understand and feel more clearly this instinct to protect & enclose around those I love. I also see the ways we come into this world as small creatures with sweet coos and loud cries for help. I see how we rapidly find delight in this world. And how easily we come across frustration and loss. Passing my days with a toddler I am reminded of how I choose to see the world and how I choose to interact. Every day I see how we have so much to learn.

We can keep a small understanding of humanity and decide who is deserving of love and who is not.We can also expand our understanding of each other as essentially connected and recognize our mutual origins as helpless small humans. Each of us is capable of responding to the call of our time to be greater than “us” and “them” & to bridge the distance between you and me.

Here are questions you can ask yourself as you continue your journey toward creating a better world:

What are the ways you are remaining connected to the beauty and humanity of someone different than you – perhaps someone who votes different than you? Who believes something different than you?

What are you doing, even something small, to heal a wound that has been left in your community?

How are you listening to the cries around you? Want do people want? What do people need? What are people afraid of?

Leave your answers in the comments below so we can hear each other.
Or feel free to send me an email annie@vesselconsulting.org.

admin@annievonessenwebsite2015The return from silence
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Say yes to life’s wild ride

Have you been contemplating doing something a little scary or exciting with your life?

Maybe you have been thinking about making a big shift in what you are doing or how you do it. Or perhaps you want try something new, like picking up a paint brush or a pen and creating something. Maybe there is something or someone you have been avoiding for a while and you are mustering the courage to have a conversation.

There is a lot of fear swirling around those of us living in the United States, and around everyone in this current world. Horrible, scary things are happening to people in the United States — from hurricanes to police violence. People around the world are fleeing their homes because of natural disasters and horrifying acts of terror. The fear is palpable. I can feel it every time someone begins a conversation about Hillary or Trump. (See? Didn’t your heart race a bit just reading their names?)

Fear is all around us. It can stop us in our tracks. It can pervade beyond where it makes sense—moving from a logical fear that protects us, to dwell in a haunted place inside our minds where it is no longer helpful.

Fear shuts us down from imagining new possibilities for ourselves and for others.

How can we answer this current, fear-inducing political and social landscape?

One way is to make the choice to say YES to the things in our own lives that we want to bring into being, even if they scare us a little.

This is my first blog post after seven months off. I did not intentionally take this time away from writing to you. It happened naturally when I made one of those gutsy life changes I am talking about. My husband Roberto and I decided to try and get pregnant and have a baby. And it worked! I am now very round and only three weeks from when this little one is due.

After I became pregnant, something unexpected happened. I grew very quiet and internal. I am not often a silent person. However, having a life growing inside me caused me to focus my energy differently. I was not totally aware of this shift until I realized I had slowed WAY down on my personal Facebook posts and had stopped writing blog posts. Part of my silence was because of this small, amazing miracle occurring and another side of my reticence to speak up was my own fear. Choosing to have a child is scary – you are committing to something much bigger than yourself, you are creating life when there is a lot that can harm the next generation, and you are guaranteed that you will not be a perfect parent. And this act of creation is already changing me in powerful ways.

There are choices we make that change us more than we realize.

After a few of these life experiences, we may begin to get weary of any change or new choice that affects our lives. Even if there are exciting opportunities ahead, we’re smart enough to know that transition is never easy and it never turns out how we planned. You can choose to try to stay on the same path and walk the line. But you know that usually doesn’t work either. Life will still send you some big game changers.

As I sit before one of my biggest life transitions yet, grateful, excited and—yes!—terrified, I encourage you to say YES to your next possibility, big or small. The growth that happens when we say YES to the wild ride of life is powerful. It is where the creation happens.

We need some creative, life affirming energy in this world right now. Let’s say YES.

Before you click on the next email or browser screen, take a moment. You’ve made it this far. Something is speaking to you. What do you want to embrace and say YES to? Or what do you want to stop doing?

Gather your courage. Gather your support system. And try it.

I am with you in this one. I am gathering my support systems and my courage and getting ready to bring a brand new, small human being into this world, in the midst of all of the fear and hate. It will change everything for me. This choice will also bring delight and possibility into my life and the lives of others.

Join me in saying YES to continuing to choose living in the face of fear.

 

 

You’ll be hearing a lot less from me for the next three to four months, while I’m learning to be a mom. I’ll be taking time away from my business, but before I take this break, I want to address how we can address the fear that pervades our current world.

When I return in a few months, I expect a few exciting changes in my business, and to continue to do awesome work with my clients. I promise to send you a picture or two via my email!

admin@annievonessenwebsite2015Say yes to life’s wild ride
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